This year the Jewish “festival of lights” will be different for 13-year-old Ben Finer. Hospitalized for a bone marrow transplant to battle a rare form of lymphoma, his family and synagogue have found ways to bring Hanukkah to him.
Like all Jewish youngsters, Ben Finer is looking forward to Hanukkah and the ancient story of the temple lamps that miraculously stayed lit. But this year’s celebration will bring special hope for the 13-year-old Brockton boy, because he’s battling a rare, aggressive form of lymphoma.
“Miracles happen,” he said from his bed at Children’s Hospital in Boston.
As he recovers from a bone marrow stem-cell transplant to restore his blood-cell production, his parents have found ways to bring the holiday to him – starting Friday night, as the eight-day celebration begins. So has the family’s synagogue, Temple Beth Am in Randolph.
At sundown tomorrow, Karen and Ronald Finer and Ben’s older brother and sister will be in his hospital room, “lighting” a candle on an electric menorah for the festival’s first night.
“I’m looking forward to that,” Ben said.
Then on Sunday morning, the synagogue will set up a Web cam so Ben can make a “virtual visit” to a Hebrew class party, from a laptop computer in his hospital room.
“This is a new situation for us,” Rabbi Loel Weiss said.
Earlier this year, the synagogue used the Web cam technology to let Ben participate in bar mitzvah classes from his home computer. The video equipment, software and volunteer time to set up the camera came from the Topsfield communications firm Totalcom Solutions. The company took on the project when a new synagogue member, Justina Guest, told her boyfriend at Totalcom about Ben’s situation.
“It makes his day, to attend temple classes,” Karen Finer said.
Ben is a student at the Plouffe Academy, a Brockton public school. He was diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma in May 2008. He’s had three rounds of chemotherapy, which helped keep the cancer in remission long enough for him to get the bone marrow transplant.
“It’s been difficult for him,” his mother said, and it’s been hard for his parents, who have thousands of dollars in medical bills and related expenses.
When Ben is discharged from Children’s Hospital, he’ll be at home for nine months as his blood and immune system build up. He can’t have visitors but will be able to go outside, where fresh air will keep germs and viruses from collecting.
“If the transplant takes, he should be fine,” Karen Finer said.
For now, Rabbi Weiss said everyone at Temple Beth Am will light a Hanukkah candle for Ben – as Ben lights his own – “to say a prayer with my family.”
The Patriot Ledger
What is Hanukkah?
The ancient festival of rededication, also known as the Festival of Lights.
How long does it last?
When does it begin?
The 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev – usually in December.
Why is Hanukkah observed?
It celebrates the Maccabees’ restoration of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century BCE. The region’s ruler, Antiochus IV, promoted Greek religion and culture and persecuted traditional Jewish believers. The Maccabees returned control of the land to the Jews. Hanukkah isn’t considered a high holy day like Passover, Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah.
Why is the menorah lit for eight nights?
It commemorates the “miracle of the oil.” Tradition says the Maccabees had lamp oil for only one night, but the Temple’s menorah lamps stayed lit for all eight nights of the ceremonial rededication.
What are other Hanukkah traditions?
Latkes (potato pancakes), games with dreidels (square spinning tops), gift giving.